Tim Cook opposed suing Samsung in 2011, but was overruled by Steve Jobs


There’s an interesting report out this morning that takes an in-depth look at the so-called “frenemy” relationship between Apple and Samsung. The connections between the two are certainly odd, as they are competitors, supply chain partners and suing each other around the world.

Their latter association is perhaps the most known in recent years. The two companies’ high profile court battles over who copied who have been very public, especially the most recent one in northern California. And according to Reuters, the whole thing started over the Galaxy Tab…

The complicated partnership between Apple and Samsung dates back to 2005, when Apple was looking for a stable supplier of flash memory for its iPod shuffle, nano and the upcoming iPhone. At the time, Samsung held about 50% of the NAND flash market. So naturally it chose them.

Both companies would thrive over the next few years as a result of the relationship. As you can imagine, being an Apple supplier has its benefits, and it gave Samsung some insight to just how big Steve Jobs thought the smartphone market would be. And in 2010, they released the Galaxy S.

The Galaxy S, as you all know, sported the Android operating system, and according to Jobs and his COO Tim Cook, had a look and feel very similar to the iPhone. So naturally, they took their concerns to the top executives at Samsung—its #1 supplier at the time. From the Reuters profile:

“Jobs and Cook complained to top Samsung executives when they were visiting Cupertino. Apple expected, incorrectly, that Samsung would modify its design in response to the concerns, people familiar with the situation said.

Apple’s worst fears were confirmed with the early 2011 release of the Galaxy Tab, which Jobs and others regarded as a clear rip-off of the iPad.

Cook, worried about the critical supplier relationship, was opposed to suing Samsung. But Jobs had run out of patience, suspecting that Samsung was counting on the supplier relationship to shield it from retribution.

Apple filed suit in April 2011, and the conflagration soon spread to courts in Europe, Asia and Australia.”

As Cook had feared, the lawsuits have taken a toll on Apple’s supplier relationship with Samsung. Though Apple may not be able to drop the Korean company as a NAND supplier for quite some time, it’s already begun to move its display, and reportedly processor orders, to other suppliers.

Has it all been worth it? It doesn’t seem like it. The hundreds of millions of dollars it’s rumored to have spent on Android litigation almost negates the $1 billion it won from Samsung last August. And it has yet to successfully block or ban one of its products due to patent infringement.

That’s not going to stop them from trying though. The two companies are already gearing up for round 2 of their northern California court battle, which is slated to kick off this summer.